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New emergency order aims to crack down on MSU house parties

Michigan State University sign
Michigan State University

Having a big house party near Michigan State University just got harder. 

On Tuesday, the Ingham County Health Department announced a new emergency order banning outdoor gatherings of more than 25 people in certain parts of East Lansing near campus - including the downtown area. 

This comes after a popular college bar, Harper's Restaurant and Brew Pub, was the site of a COVID-19 outbreak of at least 190 people in June.

Health Officer Linda Vail says they targeted parts of town where there have been a lot of noise complaints due to parties in the past.

"[We’re] trying to avoid impacting the entire city of East Lansing by finding an area of East Lansing that can be scientifically identified and justified in terms of the order,” she says. “But again we will be watching it, and if there are necessary modifications, we're prepared to make them."

Legally, Vail says violating the order could lead to arrest and a misdemeanor charge, with up to 6 months in jail or a $200 fine. But she says it rarely gets to that point. 

“Generally what happens is we go in and we are like, you know, you've got a copy of the order in your hand and it's like, ‘This is a violation of this order. You're going to have to break it up now or this is what could happen.’”

MSU Police Captain Chris Rozman says their jurisdiction is only on campus (the new order impacts the East Lansing Police Department’s jurisdiction) but even there, they want to avoid having to give out tickets.

"Now we reserve the right to do that, but that is not what the goal is here,” Rozman says. “The goal is to gain compliance through education. And we are very positive and optimistic." 

Some places, like schools and places of worship, are exempt from the emergency order.

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Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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